In my opinion, Di Zi Gui's verse 143, "better to give much and take little", is wrong. Although the underlying idea is a laudable generosity and an entirely good intention, such an idea is unfair, is not suited to the operation of markets and is contrary to the principle of exchange of equal values. The essence of society is mutual benefit and "win-win": I work hard and produce products with which, through the market, I supply and benefit others, and others also work hard and produce products with which, through the market, they supply and benefit me, to the same extent that I benefit them. This is exchange of equal values through the market; it is entirely open and above board. To benefit myself, to enable me and my family to possess and enjoy even more, I only need to produce more or better products to benefit others to an even greater extent. No trickery or fraud is necessary. The exchange of equal values, that is, the very common act of buying and selling, is the concrete expression of the natural goodness of mankind, of mankind's mutual help and mutual cooperation. We should not ask everyone to make some kind of unfair sacrifice every time he or she engages in exchange with others; that will result in people becoming afraid to engage in exchange with others or worse yet, coming to think that deceit and trickery is in order. We will then be harming people and harming society. Instead, we should encourage everyone to work harder, think deeper and invent more, so as to create even more or even better products for mankind and benefit mankind to an even greater extent, so as to benefit oneself. Therefore, in my opinion, "better to give much and take little" should be changed to "if one gives much, one won't receive little". That way, we promote the principle of exchange of equal values, encourage people to work hard and better themselves, and teach people that to benefit oneself one must benefit others.
Here I must point out that I value highly the immediately preceding verse in Di Zi Gui, verse 142: "When taking or giving, making the terms clear is most important." That's because the price and terms of exchange must be mutually clarified and mutually agreed upon for the exchange to be equal and fair. This principle of making the terms clear when taking or giving is very important to how one should deal with others in the outside world. One must not fall prey to the mistaken idea that business dealings must involve some subterfuge and deceit, that one must pull some kind of trick to "win", and so one becomes afraid to clarify price and terms with the other party. That cannot be more mistaken, and completely mixes up the fundamental principle behind relations among people. The fundamental principle behind relations among people is mutual benefit: to benefit oneself one must benefit others. Therefore the parties in a relationship must deal with one another as equals, calmly discuss everything, and not get angry when the other party has a different opinion or requirement. Like the saying goes, "everything can be discussed" - that's the right way to do deals and work with other people. Di Zi Gui's "when taking or giving, making the terms clear is most important" is a very important piece of sound advice.
- Feng Xin-ming